Part of Megan was relieved to be home after the day she’d had. She’d woken up a kindergartener and somehow things had gotten worse from there. In fact it would have been a relief if she’d woken up a kindergartener again the next morning. Even preschool age would have been an improvement on her present situation! As it was she was still shivering from the traumatic experience of being sat topless in a booster seat at a family restaurant in front of her closest friends.
Mommy dropped her bag on the floor in the living room and slipped Sue into a large automatic baby swing in the middle of the room while she went to check messages. “Meggy sweetie, play with your toys while Mommy checks the computer, and don’t make a mess please,” she called as she ran upstairs.
Megan watched her sister rock slowly back and forth in the swing, awake but far from alert. She wiggled the teen’s toes and whispered to her. “What’s it like for you Susie? What’s going on in that head of yours?”
Sue stuck her tongue out a bit and began blowing spit bubbles in response. Megan sighed and left her little sister to enjoy her silly swing. There were other things in the room to amuse herself with of course. A jack-in-the-box sat in the middle of the floor, a set of large choke-proof Lego blocks nearby. Megan didn’t want to touch them, lest she become enthralled with toddler toys again. She headed over to the couch instead, looking for the remote. She found it between the cushions and switched on the TV.
A middle aged white woman was smiling at the camera. “I want my little ones to get all the nutrition their growing bodies need. But there are so many brands out there that just can’t deliver. That’s why I stick with the tried and true company for babies’ dietary needs, Gerber’s,” the woman enthused. The scene shifted and now the woman was seen standing in a kitchen with a lanky teen boy sat in a huge high-chair before her. The boy was dressed in nothing but a puffy white diaper, grinning ear to ear and banging his hands on the tray as the woman spooned gooky yellow stuff into his open mouth. An announcer’s voice explained that Gerber’s Growing Bodies products were specially designed for infants aged 12 to 15 years old.
“Ugh!” Megan moaned, switching channels.
A diaper ad appeared on the screen next. Now two older teens, one girl and one boy, were pictured lying on their backs on a soft white carpet dressed only in disposable diapers, giggling and peddling their legs in the air while a graphic showed the stretchiness of the diaper.
Megan turned the TV back off in exasperation. Just then Mommy hurried back into the room and scooped Sue out of her swing. “Okay Meggy, Mommy needs to give Susie her bathie, then it will be your turn. Be a good girl and stay in the living room for me.”
Megan nodded and watched her mother disappear with Sue riding on her hip. Now there really was nothing to do. She feared her mind would eventually turn to mush just like Sue’s if she didn’t find something to occupy her. Sitting down on the floor she gave serious thought to giving in and playing with the Lego blocks. Maybe she could build a pretend city or something.
By chance she glanced over at her mother’s bag, lying on its side on the carpet nearby. Among the possessions visible there was a book, a black leather bound book. Megan crept across the floor to the bag and reached inside. As she drew her hand back out she got a feeling of elation for the first time tonight. It was Catcher in the Rye.
The book was in her hands now, but she was no closer to figuring out what to do with it. She held it tightly in her hands and said out loud, “I want to be a grown-up again.”
Megan stared hard at the book again and tried a new tack. “I like being a grown-up,” she whispered to it. “I am happy as a grown-up,” she pled, willing it to work.
Her eyes shut tight, book gripped tightly, she wished silently over and over for it to change her back, to fix things. Then she opened her eyes and looked around. Nothing had changed. She was still dressed in a unicorn t-shirt and pull-ups, there were still toddler toys all over and an adult-sized infant swing in the middle of the room.
Now Megan felt a new emotion, anger. In fact it was more than just anger. Megan was enraged. If the book couldn’t fix her, what good was it? It seemed that it could only make things worse, not better. After all, just as Rachel had pointed out the night before, things hadn’t turned out so well for Holden Caulfield had they? He’d ended up in a nut-house. In fact, that’s what happened to another devotee of this novel, John Hinckley, too. No, the book was clearly evil and there was only one way to deal with that. Megan knew she had to destroy the wicked thing and she had to do it now.
First she needed to make sure she wouldn’t be interrupted. So she crept upstairs, hearing the sounds of cooing and giggling echoing down to her. At the top of the steps she peaked her head just around the corner until she could see into the bathroom.
Mommy had left the door wide open. Sue was sitting in a baby bath seat in the middle of the bathroom. It was a light green kind of plastic bucket seat with a big yellow spongy section between her legs. She was naked of course. Mommy held a bright yellow rattle in one hand, shaking it high above Sue’s head. The teen girl gaped open-mouthed up at it and squealed in delight, reaching her hands out for it and batting them clumsily about while Mommy cleaned her bare breasts and her tummy with a sudsy sponge in her other hand.
Assured that Mommy was well distracted Megan scurried downstairs and tip-toed into the kitchen. The place was well baby-proofed with plastic locks on every cabinet. While those may have thwarted a mental toddler Megan easily undid them and rifled through cabinets and drawers until she found what she was looking for, a big box of matches.
Grabbing the trash bin from beside the fridge she dumped out its contents on the floor, then retrieved the book. Dropping it in the bin she opened the match-box and took a handful out. It was hard to get a grip on them individually. Her fingers were clumsy and she dropped the first couple. She listened intently for any sign Mommy was coming. Finally the third match lit and she dropped it in the bin. It went out before it hit the bottom. Trying a new tact she lifted the book back out and managed to light another match. This time she held it to the pages of the book until it lit up. She watched the yellowed old paper retreat, blackening and curling before disappearing in flames. Once the book was well ablaze she dropped it back in the bin. The fire spread quickly and Megan grinned triumphantly as the novel was consumed.
Thick acrid smoke began to pour from the bin and a moment later the smoke alarm began to beep loudly. Megan could hear Mommy hurrying down the hall and the stairs. She knew she’d be in trouble for this, but it didn’t matter. The book was already destroyed. Whatever power it had was gone. She’d won.
“Oh my God!!! Megan what are you doing?!” Mommy screamed as she came racing into the kitchen.
Without asking for an answer she raced to the sink and filled up a couple glasses with water then dumped them in the bin. Just like that the small fire was out. Amanda grabbed a tea-towel and waved it wildly at the smoke alarm until it stopped its ear-piercing warning. Then she turned to Megan with shock and fear in her eyes.
She lunged at the girl and grabbed her hands tightly. “Naughty Megan! Playing with matches is very bad! You must never ever do that!” she scolded, putting her face just inches from Megan’s.
Megan tried her best to look scared and contrite but inside she was just hoping the whole world would shift back to normal any second. Her mother’s scolding was cut short when Sue began crying loudly. Mommy gave Megan a stern look and told her, “Don’t touch anything. Mommy will be right back.”
Her mother took the matches and hurried back upstairs to see why Sue was wailing, leaving Megan alone once more. She was disappointed that the world hadn’t changed again, but relieved that at least things wouldn’t get worse. Perhaps they would still be able to find a way to set things right yet.
The smoke had cleared from the trash bin and Megan leant over it to see what was left of the book. There appeared to be nothing but watery ashes left in the bin. Megan smiled with satisfaction for a moment, but then the smile faltered. She squinted down into the bin. Was that something pink in there? Why would there be something pink in all those blackened ashes?
Megan turned the bin over, dumping the contents onto the kitchen floor. Dropping the bin she knelt by the pile of burnt paper on the floor. Sure enough there was something pink sticking out of the blackness. She brushed aside some ashes and instantly jumped back, not believing what she saw. There was a new book amidst the destruction. It was a bright pink and glossy new looking picture book with rounded corners and thick pages like a toddler book. Despite the cartoon images of bunnies on the cover the title still said Catcher in the Rye.
Sue’s cries had died down by then and Megan knew Mommy would be back to scold her soon. She didn’t care about that. What she was seeing right now scared her far more than any punishment Mommy could dole out. Then things got worse.
The book began to glow once again, though this time a bright pink emanated from it. The ashes and embers around it vanished, the smoky air clearing and the trash bin reappearing back next to the fridge where it was meant to be. Megan could only watch, transfixed as the kitchen righted itself. Then the glow expanded and all she could see was the blinding pink light. She couldn’t even shield her eyes. In her terror she felt pee-pee flooding her pull-up once again.
Then her fear seemed to leave her, a feeling of peace and contentment settling like a soft blankie over her mind. Whatever it was she’d been thinking about a second ago didn’t seem important anymore. And whatever it was she couldn’t recall it anyway. The pink light faded away and Meggy found herself sitting on the linoleum floor of a clean kitchen, warm pee-pee squishing around her bum-bum and a pretty pink book on the floor nearby. Meggy liked pink. She couldn’t quite recall what the colour was called, but she knew she really like it.
Mommy walked into the kitchen with Sue bouncing on her hip. She smiled down at her twenty-one year old toddler daughter as the girl squatted on the floor looking curiously at some picture book. “Meggy, what are you doing? Are you trying to read like a big girl?”
Meggy smiled innocently up at her mother and shook her head. “No! Meggy no wead! Meggy wike pig-shures!” she announced.
“Oh, you like the pictures?” Mommy translated.
Meggy nodded, then dropped the book and slapped at her crotch with both hands. “Made pee-pee Mommy! Meggy had ax-ee-den’!”
“That’s okay Meggy, Mommy will clean you up, but then you have to show me you can use the potty like a big girl before you go to beddy-byes. Can you do that for me honey?” Mommy bargained.
Meggy nodded eagerly, desperate for her Mommy to see she could be a big girl. And so it was that Meggy finished her day sitting on a big pink potty seat in her mom’s kitchen, smiling ear to ear and clapping her hands with glee when the sounds of pee-pee splashing on plastic finally filled the air.